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Managing Today’s Heterogeneous Data Center

May 26, 2009

Summary

Data center managers are in a tough spot. They need to control data center complexity and at the same time cut costs. They must also navigate in an environment where user expectations are high and demand continues to increase. Here’s how infrastructure standardization can help.
Today’s enterprise data center is a hive of heterogeneous technologies. There are servers supporting a wide range of operating systems, storage, and hardware from multiple vendors, scores of unique applications and databases, and tools from numerous vendors. But as data center managers worldwide have learned, heterogeneity exacts a price: A customized environment that has been created to meet specific business requirements is complex and expensive to manage.
As if that weren’t enough, Symantec’s latest State of the Data Center report shows that reducing costs continues to be a top mandate for today’s data center managers. Given the tough economic climate, it’s not surprising that attention has turned to initiatives that will cut costs immediately and deliver a greater return on the existing assets, rather than longer-term ROI-driven programs. The report also shows that, despite the current economic challenges, demand for IT services continues to rise.
So data center managers today are in a tough spot. They need to control data center complexity and at the same time cut costs and manage staffing levels. They must also navigate in an environment where user expectations remain high and demand continues to increase.
In other words, they need to figure out how to do more with less.
This article provides an overview of Symantec’s storage management solutions and Data Center Standardization Service, and how Symantec can help enterprises significantly reduce the number of disparate infrastructure technologies, tools, management interfaces, and operational processes deployed in their data centers.

Servers and storage underutilized

IT organizations know that, in the current economic environment, every IT purchase must translate into a demonstrable business benefit, with a short payback period. But consider these statistics: According to the State of the Data Center report, companies in 2008 reported that their data center servers were operating at just 53% of capacity. Additionally, a report by The Info Pro in 2008 states that enterprises are using just 35% of their available storage.
Such utilization rates may be acceptable during periods of robust economic growth, but in tough economic times they simply don’t make sense. Having an array that is only 35% utilized is like paying almost three times as much for the storage needed. Idle capacity also consumes power, increases cooling costs, and unnecessarily consumes floor space, which is often at a premium.

Achieving a higher standard

By deploying a hardware-independent infrastructure software layer, IT organizations can standardize their policies, processes, and tools for managing and operating the data center without the loss of agility and without the vendor “lock-in” issues typically associated with single-vendor solutions. To capture these benefits, the infrastructure software standard should provide support for all major platforms, storage arrays, and applications deployed within the data center.
Standardizing enables IT organizations to decrease operational costs by:
  • Improving operational efficiency and reducing labor costs through standardized processes, policies, and interfaces
  • Deferring storage and server costs by optimizing use of existing assets
  • Reducing hardware costs by utilizing cost-effective, commoditized hardware
  • Lowering administrative costs by managing and deploying fewer technologies and configurations
Standardizing the infrastructure software enables IT organizations to reduce complexity by:
  • Improving visibility and reporting of data center assets
  • Enabling consistent, stable, and reliable data center rollouts
  • Reducing the number of technologies and tools to manage data centers
  • Increasing business agility and accelerate time to market
  • Decreasing downtime and mean time to repair
  • Reducing training requirements

Symantec solutions for standardization

Symantec storage and availability management solutions enable IT organizations to standardize their storage and server environments to reduce complexity and costs without the limitations associated with a single-vendor approach.
Veritas CommandCentral Storage is a storage resource management solution providing centralized visibility and control across physical and virtual heterogeneous storage environments. By enabling storage capacity management, centralized monitoring, and application to spindle mapping, CommandCentral Storage helps improve storage utilization, optimizes resources, increases data availability, and reduces capital and operational costs.
Veritas Storage Foundation provides a complete solution for heterogeneous online storage management. Based on the industry-leading Veritas Volume Manager and Veritas File System, it provides a standard set of integrated tools to centrally manage explosive data growth, maximize storage hardware investments, provide data protection, and adapt to changing business requirements. Unlike point solutions, Veritas Storage Foundation enables IT organizations to manage their storage infrastructure with one tool.
Available for free with Veritas Storage Foundation are two key management solutions: Veritas Storage Foundation Manager and Veritas Operations Services. Veritas Storage Foundation Manager offers enterprise-wide management and reporting of application, server, and storage environments, thereby increasing productivity, reducing complexity, and minimizing risks. Veritas Operations Services offers a suite of innovative, cloud-based services that increase operational efficiencies, offer proactive management, and enable alignment with best practices. For example, one of the services offered is called Health Check, which assesses configurations and updates environmental parameters to increase performance, availability, and utilization.
Symantec provides these solutions for all major operating systems, server and storage hardware, and leading enterprise applications and databases. With no hardware agenda, Symantec can help enterprises design and implement a heterogeneous infrastructure management system that enables standardization across the entire enterprise.
Symantec’s Data Center Standardization Service is designed to assess an organization’s server and storage environment from a management and technology perspective to determine where the operational benefits of standardization can be realized.
Symantec takes a phased approach to the standardization process.
  • Assess. The assessment phase reviews the customer environment, establishes the objectives for standardizing infrastructure software and management interfaces, and typically focuses on: the financial ROI and strategic business benefits from standardization; business drivers such as reduced complexity and costs, and improved scalability and agility; existing standards, tools, processes, and technologies— many of which can be retained; the desired state, including reference architectures, standard builds, processes, tools, and technologies.
  • Design. The design phase covers activities required to create the standardization plan: tasks, milestones, resources, and estimated costs to standardize the data center. Symantec also provides a specification for technologies, policies, processes, and skills required for standardization; as well as reference architectures and building standards for commonly deployed configurations. A schedule is also developed for implementing standardized technologies, processes, reference architectures, and technology updates.
  • Transform. The technical transformation phase follows a series of standardized steps to implement the technologies, processes, policies, and interfaces required for standardization. Symantec deploys automated provisioning tools to consistently roll out standard builds and upgrade existing environments; configures standardized environments to deliver optimum availability, performance, and value; and migrates business applications and data into the standardized environments.
  • Operate. The operational phase leverages the key benefits of standardization: standard processes and policies are implemented; commonly performed tasks are automated; operational systems are integrated; and skills are developed through onsite workshops.

Conclusion

Today’s enterprise data center is constantly changing, which can provide many benefits. But the increasing adoption of new and different technologies can lead to heterogeneity at all levels. Over time, many organizations have implemented storage and server platforms running multiple operating environments. In addition, they have implemented hardware from multiple vendors, which can save money by keeping hardware pricing competitive, but can also add more complexity and interoperability challenges.
Symantec’s storage management solutions and Data Center Standardization Service help reduce the complexity and associated costs of managing multivendor, heterogeneous data centers. At the same time Symantec is also able to deliver on performance and availability benefits. Given the harsh facts of today’s economy, IT organizations are encouraged to explore the operational benefits of standardization.

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